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Celebrate Her With Strings

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***

Ginny should have known. Dad always told us growing up not to trust strange objects we'd never seen before. They could be dangerous. Like those exploding matchboxes that Fred and me found in his top drawer. He nearly flogged us both to death when we blew his desk drawer up. She should have been more responsible.

Yeah. Like, it's not like it would have come to any good. She was just asking for trouble, just writing in the diary. She should have just written in books she knew were her own. I mean, it's not like I don't feel sympathy for her, but it's her own fault. You know?

***

Ginny Weasley was never a girl to lock her door of a night, but she did it every night now with out failure when she came back from school. Fred said it was because she was afraid of things getting into her room. George speculated that it was because she didn't want to get out. She'd lock the door, twice to be sure, and jam a chopped-up bit of wood in the space between door and floor. They could still see the hundreds of candles lighting her room, perilously threatening to burn down the house. They never knew if it was because of the dark or because of the cold.

The second night after the children came home from school, her mother caught her trying to burn every single book in the family home out in the garden. Her mother's beloved cookbook, with recipes passed down from generations of Prewett women. Photo albums and story books. She had no expression on her face as she stood beside the funeral pyre with a book of muggle matches in one hand and a flask of cooking oil in the other. Her parents divested her of the flammables and led her up the steps to her bedroom. She didn't make a sound the whole way up.

The next morning, they awoke to the smell of smoke and ash in the garden and flakes of ashy parchment and embers floating upwards into the sky.

***

You never think it can happen to your own kids. I mean, you warn them every day of their lives, you show them the consequences of meddling with things way out of your control, and then they go and get themselves hurt.

I thought Ginny would know better. I thought she'd be the one to listen to me; the boys were all so... I don't know if they ever really respected what I did for a living. I know that Percy tended to think it was a bit of a joke, and Fred and George... lost causes, really. But I thought Ginny would listen to me. She seemed like such a sensible little girl. Thought she'd listen to her elders. I don't know what got into that girl, away from home.

Maybe she went away to school too young. I mean, the boys went at that age and they seemed all right, but... they're boys, and so they're tougher than she is. Maybe we should have hung onto her for another year, or so.

***

The family set about trying to make things feel like normal back at home. The twins told even cruder jokes, and Ron would laugh even more loudly. Her mother would fuss over her and encourage her to eat more and more, because she was getting so thin, and her father would offer her a choice morsel of paternalistic pap before he set off to work each day. They all told her to be careful around magical objects, and not to trust anyone, but it wasn't as though they needed to keep repeating the point. She wished that they wouldn't avoid her as much when they were just on their own with her, and she wished they wouldn't skate around her as if she were a precariously placed porcelain bust.

Out in the garden one day, Ginny talked for an hour to a little grass snake that was sunning itself on the footpath, and then she killed it with a flick of her wand. Ron was the only one who saw it, but he didn't want to say anything, lest her parents worry even more about the kind of magic that she could do without having been formally educated on it. She was a worrisome one.

***

Nothing good ever becomes of girls who are too forward and who leap into things without thinking through their actions properly. That's what I was told when I was growing up, and met her father. I mean, yes, it was rather... whirl-wind is the term my children use to describe it. And my parents both. But I knew what I was getting myself into. Not like Ginny.

It's hard raising daughters, especially with all those boys. You always want her to be a better sort of woman than you were yourself. I feel I've failed Ginny. If I'd spent more time with her when she was littler, if I'd told her a hundred more times not to be disobedient or whimsical... I don't know, really, if she'd be any different today. She's nothing like me now, that's all I know.

***

Molly Weasley didn't expect anyone to be awake so late when she got out of bed to investigate a noise coming from downstairs. The doors to her sons' bedrooms were all shut, with only the dimmest lights coming from their rooms. The only sign that things were awry was her daughter's bedroom door flung wide open, the lights off and Ginny's bed empty. She padded along the corridor in her tatty tartan slippers, peering into rooms as she passed, trying to find her little girl: not in the kitchen, nor in the sitting room nor her father's little fenced-off study.

She saw a light coming at the end of the hall from under the bathroom door, and she quietly approached it, listening for a telltale splash of water or flush of the cisterns.

"Ginny, dear, are you in here?"

There was no response; no water sloshing or footsteps. Molly knocked quietly on the door, and when she waited a minute to absolute silence, she hesitantly turned the knob and let herself into the bathroom.

It'd been a long time since Molly had seen her little daughter's body: when she was little, she was so unafraid of revealing herself that her skin had been peppered with gingery freckles. She was such a little girl; not big and ungainly, like Molly had been, but finely boned and delicately featured. It was from Arthur's side.

Ginny Weasley hadn't grown more than three inches since Molly had last laid eyes on her, and her hips and feet were only slightly wider, but she was still the little bird-like figure with a tiny little nose and liquid brown eyes. Only her skin wasn't dotted with freckles; it was pale and sickly, with veins coursing across her back and arms, and when she looked up at her mother from the bathtub she could see an ugly mess of black scrawling over her skin, covering nearly every surface of her body. Her eyes fixed on nothing and she clung to her knees as the water only just covered them.

"Ginny... what's this on your body?"

Ginny didn't move a muscle or open her lips. She sat in the bath, dead upright, with her knees tucked up against her chest. Molly approached her, fingers trembling and breath caught in her throat when she saw what the black mess was: writing. Scrawled from clavicle to breast to clavicle, down the soft skin of her arms, and messy and obscured when she'd run out of a patch of clean space or had come to a joint.

"Only I can see it." Her voice was soft and weak, and she rubbed a cut on her leg with her thumb. "Can't control me."

Molly picked up a little square of towelling washcloth, and knelt down beside the bath. She dipped the cloth into the water and raised it tentatively to her daughter's shoulder. "It's late, little one." She brushed the cloth on Ginny's skin. The ink didn't seem to budge; it almost seemed stained into her chest. "Where did that soap go?"

"I didn't ask him to do that to me."

Molly regarded her daughter as she swiped a bit of soap onto the cloth, and took to Ginny's skin again. She kissed the top of her head as the ink started to wipe off with the soap and the scrubbing, and she thought for a moment, in the dim light, that her little girl had stopped growing altogether.

***

I dunno. She's my sister. Not much to say. It's... um, good to have her around because then I'm not the youngest.

I remember that day when Harry brought her back from the Chamber. It was scary, she was all little and cold and... she is tough, you know? She used to bloody wail into me if she didn't get her way when we were little, but she was so quiet. But still the same, you know. It wasn't a fair match, 'cos... you know, he's so much more powerful and strong than her, but she was the one who came out all right. He's a puddle of... you won't repeat it to my mum or dad, will you? He's a puddle of scum, crap. He used her and couldn't even succeed.

She's good, Ginny. Good kid. Bet Malfoy couldn't live through that.

***

Ginny Weasley grew another two inches that summer. Her mum notched her height into the back of the kitchen door with the business end of her wand. She was now up to where Ron was when he was eight, but she knew for a fact that Ron stood on his tip-toes for that measurement.

When her mother etched her measurements into the wood, Ginny took her own wand and wrote her name beside it, taking care not to snap the tip of her wand. She wondered if she could go live with Charlie in Romania after school and battle dragons as the carving in the wood dug in deep, and she only hesitated for a minute to see if the kitchen door would try to break into her.

***